Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

don’t react. respond.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 NIV

When I was in high school, I worked at McDonalds. I started on “fries and shakes” (back when they actually MADE the shakes – with ice cream and syrup and a real shake machine ). Over the years I worked every job, from birthday party hostess to counter to drive thru to grill . . . even manager trainee.

During my senior year of high school, I was assigned to work drive thru with another girl from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. One of us worked the window and the other “filled the orders.” Back then, McDonalds only had ONE drive thru window. Back then, working the window meant taking the orders at the speaker AND taking the money AND handing the orders to the customer. So, one of us stood in the same place for 4 hours every day and the other ran around like crazy, filling the orders. When I worked the window, I would take the order from the customer at the speaker, take the money from the customer at the window, turn around, grab the already filled bag and drinks, hand them out the window and repeat. All the while my friend and co-worker bobbed and weaved through the employees working the counter to grab food and fill the next bag. Some shifts I worked the window and she filled orders, some shifts she worked the window and I filled orders.

WE. WERE. FAST. Our goal was the “30 second drive thru” McDonalds constantly pushed. If the manager kept the food coming from the grill and there was an assigned “fry” person, we were very, very often able to meet that 30 second mark.

It got boring.

So, we looked for ways to make things more interesting. First we tried pranks and jokes. Like writing “HELP! LET ME OUT! on an empty bag and place it where the filled order should go, that kind of thing. That got boring. What to do. What to do . . .

We decided we were going to make people smile within 30 seconds. Getting the friendly people to smile was easy. Getting the distracted and indifferent people to smile – also easy. Each smile was a win. The challenge? Cranky people. We were going to get them to smile too. When a grouchy, mean, impatient, cranky, sarcastic (you get the idea) customer came to our drive thru, we were sickeningly sweet and friendly. We smiled, we were overly-nice, we joked, we smiled more. And when a cranky person drove away after giving a smile – or even just a grin? That wasn’t just a win, it was a bonus!

We used kindness as a weapon, adopting the “kill em’ with kindness” philosophy. It was fun, and we got through our shifts without hating the job or the customers. We were just kids, goofing around, thinking we were manipulating people and feeling impressed with ourselves.

But what I learned from that experience has stayed with me. It doesn’t take much to diffuse a situation. It actually takes very little. Very little pride or arrogance, I mean. It means giving people grace instead of what I think they deserve. When I diffuse a situation, it means no more “right back atcha” or “no you di ent!” It means consciously choosing to respond, instead of react. I’ve mentioned this before, that I want to respond instead of react. I learned it from my sister-in-law. She told me that one year her prayer and goal was to learn how to respond, instead of react. It was a l o n g year. Her next year’s prayer and goal?

To respond appropriately.

I love that. I’m working on that. Not that I’m able to do it all the time, mind you, but I have realized something. When I’m off balance, when I don’t get any solitude, when I’m tired and/or over-extended, when I don’t devote time to prayer or reading my Bible – I’m irritable. When I’m irritable, I take it out on other people. But, when I’M okay, when I have peace, I have the wherewithal to overcome my first reaction and instead, choose to respond. I can give people grace instead of what I think they deserve.

Strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – it doesn’ matter. Because it has nothing to do with THEM. It’s a decision I make about how I will respond to them, no matter the relationship. No matter the offense.

Sounds lofty. Pious. Impossible. Maybe. I can’t do it all the time. But I can try. And if I fail when I fail, I’ll try again.

Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.
Charles R. Swindoll
Christian Reader, v. 33, n. 4.


This devotion was inspired by Amy’s post entitled “When You Give Someone a Cookie” at “God’s Work in Progress.

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August 20, 2008 Posted by | grace, spiritual growth, Uncategorized, witnessing | , , , , | 5 Comments